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Honda vs Toyota reliability - Which is Better?

By Autolist Staff | October 24, 2019

One of the most important criteria when evaluating cars is reliability. Reliable vehicles are ones that don't need frequent repairs and that last for many years if you take good care of them. Every vehicle needs regular servicing, but new cars shouldn't need a new engine or brake system for several years. Two of the most popular brands on the vehicle market are Honda and Toyota, and it's no coincidence that both Japanese automakers have reputations for reliability. Before picking a car from either brand, however, it's best to compare their dependability in detail. Here are some vehicles from Honda and Toyota that have a long history of reliability records from reputable sites.

Honda vs. Toyota Reliability: How Do The Brands Stack Up?

Each year, the nonprofit organization Consumer Reports surveys half a million car buyers on the most reliable auto brands on the market. As of 2019, the most recent Consumer Reports reliability survey lists Toyota as the second most reliable car brand, below Lexus and above Mazda, and Honda as the 15th most reliable brand. Some of the more reliable brands in the survey include Subaru, Kia, Infiniti, Audi, BMW, Mini and Hyundai. Car brands of mid-range dependability include Porsche, Genesis, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Buick and Lincoln, while brands of relatively low reliability include Dodge, Jeep, Chevrolet, Chrysler, GMC, Ram, Tesla, Cadillac and Volvo.

For the last half-decade, Toyota has been at or near the top of Consumer Reports reliability surveys, while Honda's position has steadily fallen. Much of Toyota's dominance comes down to the company's consistency. The largest automaker in the world, Toyota's business model focuses on dependability over innovation, performance or flashiness. On the test track, Toyota vehicles tend to perform in the bottom third of the market, primarily because Toyota refuses to sacrifice dependability for performance. Toyotas aren't exceptionally quiet or comfortable compared to cars of other brands, but they can hold up for years before showing serious wear. According to the car research site MojoMotors.com, Toyota vehicles last 210,705 miles on average before losing almost all of their value. Another reason Toyotas score high on reliability is that Toyota keeps technological amenities such as infotainment systems to a minimum until they've been proven to work. That's because newer, more complex technology breaks down more often, harming customer satisfaction.

Reliability vs. Performance

In contrast to Toyota, Honda focuses primarily on performance. For decades, Honda's vehicles stood alongside Toyota's as some of the most reliable on the market. But in recent years the company has shifted toward making their cars as smooth, quiet and comfortable as possible, giving them powerful engines and high-tech transmissions even at the cost of reliability. Consumer Reports notes that Honda's eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions tend to have more problems than the company's older designs. Also, the company's new turbocharged engines have proven less dependable than the previous engines.

Honda also sacrificed reliability by embracing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software earlier than most brands. CarPlay is a state-of-the-art interface that connects to the vehicle's infotainment system to provide user-friendly audio and visual outputs. Toyota only embraced Apple CarPlay in 2018 with its release of the 2019 Toyota Avalon, several years after Honda adopted the technology. By the time Toyota started using CarPlay, many of the software's flaws had been ironed out.

However, Honda still makes much more dependable vehicles than most auto manufacturers. According to MojoMotors, the average Honda vehicle lasts 209,001 miles before becoming theoretically worthless. That's because Honda, like Toyota, has high engineering standards and top-notch manufacturing processes. For example, Honda requires its vehicle parts to fit more tightly than most automakers, ensuring they don't wear down as quickly from grinding against each other. Honda is also the largest engine maker in the world so that it can rely on economies of scale for quality control. Traditionally, Honda has also encouraged direct communication between line workers and higher-ups to ensure flaws in manufacturing are reported quickly. Like Toyota, Honda uses aggressive industrial techniques, such as root cause analysis and statistical process control, to refine production.

What Are the Most Reliable Toyota Vehicles?

The vehicle research site ReliabilityIndex.com maintains a comprehensive reliability index for hundreds of vehicles, ranking each according to factors such as the cost of repairs and how often parts fail. According to this index, the Scion iQ is the most reliable vehicle on the market. Only one generation of the Scion iQ was released in the U.S., on the market from 2012 to 2015, with relatively low sales.

The Toyota Prius is a more popular model that has also achieved an excellent reputation for reliability. The gas-electric hybrid Prius comes in both compact and subcompact classes and both four-door sedan and five-door liftback body styles. The Environmental Protection Agency considers the Prius one of the cleanest cars available, as it has low smog-forming emissions. The Prius v, an extended hatchback, and the Prius c, a subcompact hatchback, are also available for purchase. The Prius liftback is one of the best-selling hybrid cars in the world, with over 4 million sold, as of 2017. The Toyota Auris, a compact hatchback based on the Toyota Corolla, is another vehicle renowned for its dependability, particularly as a family car. Electric failures make up about a fifth of this vehicle's reliability problems. Other problems that can arise include seats that wear quickly and a decline in power whenever an exhaust gas recirculation valve gets blocked.

Other Toyota Vehicles

A compact crossover SUV, the Toyota RAV4 is another reliable vehicle, with Consumer Reports regarding it as the most dependable car for its class and AutoExpress voting it the most reliable car overall. The RAV4 enjoys the fuel economy and maneuverability of much smaller vehicles while offering constant four-wheel-drive and ample cargo room. In many countries, this vehicle is the only crossover from Toyota that consumers can buy. The Toyota 4Runner, a series of compact and midsize SUVs, has a strong reputation for reliability as well. A 2019 study by the automotive research site iSeeCars.com listed the 4Runner as the fifth longest-lasting vehicle in the U.S., with nearly 4 percent of 4Runners having more than 200,000 miles. Finally, the Toyota Yaris is a highly dependable vehicle. A subcompact that's been around since 1999, the Yaris comes in two-door coupe and four-door sedan body styles along with three- and five-door hatchback body styles.

Not all Toyotas are reliable, however. The Toyota Hilux series of commercial vehicles, which came in cab chassis and pickup truck styles, aren't prized for their dependability. Similarly, the Toyota Land Cruiser, a Jeep-like four-wheel-drive vehicle, and the Toyota Avensis, a series of large and midsize family cars, tend to rank low in reliability surveys.

What Are the Most Reliable Honda Vehicles?

Although the Honda brand doesn't score as highly as Toyota in surveys of dependability, there are plenty of very reliable Honda vehicles on offer. For example, the Honda Fit is ranked as the fifth most reliable vehicle on ReliabilityIndex.com. Released in the U.S. in 2005, the Honda Fit is a five-door hatchback subcompact with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable or six-speed manual transmission options. All trim levels of this vehicle also feature a rear-view backup camera. Also, the Honda Civic has proved generally reliable over several decades, with tens of millions sold worldwide since its debut in 1972. Over the years, the Honda Civic, which comes in both four-door sedan and three- and five-door hatchback styles has gotten larger and more luxurious. Consumer Reports considers the Honda Civic Coupe the most reliable variant, and the 2015 Civic Coupe, in particular, has received a lot of praise. The Civic's main reliability problems stem from its electrical systems, with the axle and suspension, engine and gearbox systems causing a fair amount of issues as well.

The Honda Accord, a series of very popular midsize vehicles now in its 10th generation, also ranks highly for reliability. According to ReliabilityIndex.com, the average Accord has 57,716 miles and is 4.57 years old. About half of the Accord's reliability problems come down to the electrical and braking systems, while the air conditioning, gearbox and axle, and suspension systems cause the rest. Another reliable Honda vehicle is the Insight, a four-door, five-passenger hybrid electric hatchback. The Insight is one of the most fuel-efficient gas-powered cars in U.S. history. Even though Insights tend to be expensive, they have low average repair costs. Almost all of the Insight's reliability problems come down to its axle and suspension system, with the steering system causing the rest of the issues.

Other Honda Vehicles

If you want a reliable Honda, you should also look at the Honda CR-V. This also-popular compact SUV was first released in 1997, using four-cylinder engines and available with either front or all-wheel-drive. According to ReliabilityIndex.com, the CR-V has an average age of 5.41 years and an average mileage of 56,027 miles. The CR-V's reliability ratings aren't as high as other Honda vehicles, and the repair costs are often steep, but the vehicle is much more dependable than most on the market. Many Honda vehicles have mid-range reliability, such as the Honda FR-V, while some have abysmal reliability, such as the Honda Odyssey. Consumer Reports notes that the Odyssey, a five-door minivan, has a reliability level well below the market average.

When it comes to reliability, Toyota has the edge over Honda, embracing time-tested features that have proven to work instead of risky innovations that haven't. However, Honda offers several vehicles that match Toyota's for reliability, despite putting performance first. All in all, Toyota and Honda are two of the most dependable car brands on the market.